Recently, web developer and designer extraordinaire Jason Cooksey took a quick break from his teaching responsibilities at Geekwise Academy to walk us through the basics of UX design.
Great UX Design Makes Users Feel Smart
If you’ve found this post, you might not be sure exactly what UX design is. When we asked Jason for his definition, he told us that UX design is “the process of creating an intentionally enjoyable experience for people who’re interacting with something you’ve created.”
“Be it a digital interface, a tangible product, or even static content, users should feel smart when they use your thing,” said Jason. “They should feel like it was built for them.”
Jason first encountered the concept of UX design in Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. He said the book opened his eyes to how accounting for users’ innate preferences could make his designs more successful (and his users happier).
“Don Norman is a cognitive scientist, so the book was, like, really over my head,” said Jason. “I just wanted a few bites of something, and it was like a 50 meter-long sandwich. But I found another book by Steve Krug, called Don’t Make Me Think. It felt like my smaller brain was able to comprehend and understand that book. But both of them really focused on the idea of creating something that should feel natural.”
If it sounds like UX design is an ironically complex concept, don’t worry. You’re not the only one who thinks so.
“When I was introduced to UX design, it opened up this whole new world of design,” said Butler CEO Sean Tambagahan, while interviewing Jason. “Instead of just making things look pretty, you can make them functional. But when I talk about UX design to people who are just learning this thing, it sometimes feels like it can get over-complicated.”
Making UX Design Less Complex
“It is complex,” agreed Jason. “As a UX designer, you’re constantly searching for a better way to communicate to the end user, and that is complicated. Because there are a lot of things you have to account for in order to successfully communicate with people.”
The key to becoming a good UX designer, according to Jason, is to constantly study the shared language of human communication, and then to incorporate that language into your designs.
“Think of a door,” said Jason. “How many times have you tried to open a door and just smashed right into it? That makes you feel stupid, right? You feel like it’s your fault, but really, it should be the designer who feels that shame. If a door doesn’t function the way you expect, the person who designed that interaction did a poor job.”
Jason also recommended that fledgling UX designers:
- Approach the process with a growth mindset. “What you think is the right thing about design? That idea needs to continually grow.”
- Learn how to design from a place of empathy and understanding. “We need to be cognizant of the cognitive biases that our users bring to any interaction. There are a thousand questions that we all ask of the things we interact with every day. Our users are asking those same questions, as well.”
- Research, research, research. “Get to know the design language that already exists. A big thing I do with my students is … have them do industry research. They’re researching their clients’ competition to find out what things those companies are providing their users. And then we ask whether we should do that for our users as well.”
When you’ve figured out how to design such that users trust your applications, websites, or whatevers to act as they should, said Jason, then you’ve become a successful UX designer.
We’re incredibly grateful to Jason for taking the time to chat with us, and for making the complex process that is UX design just a bit simpler to understand. If you want to hear more from Jason, be sure to head over to our YouTube channel, where we’ve got a bit of bonus content from our recent interview.